ASHT member spotlighted for work with UTV accident patient

ASHT Member Justin Stehr, OTR, CHT was recently featured for his role in saving and restoring the function of a patient's right arm and hand after a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) accident in July 2022.

A year of teamwork restores patient’s arm after devastating accident
VUMC Reporter
Posted September 15, 2023

by Jill Clendening

Forty-year-old Dawn Reed carefully places a blood pressure cuff around the arm of Vanderbilt University Medical Center occupational therapist Justin Stehr, OTR, CHT, and deftly squeezes the bulb to inflate the cuff.

Across her right forearm is a tattoo that reads in her own shaky cursive, “I was not built to break.” To Reed, and those who know about her recovery from a massive injury to this arm, these words are fitting.

Over the span of more than a year, hundreds of providers from Emergency Medicine, Trauma, Orthopaedic Surgery, Plastic Surgery and Occupational Therapy have played a role in saving and restoring the function of Reed’s right arm and hand after a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) accident in July 2022. Many who assisted in her healing and rehabilitation call her recovery nothing short of miraculous.

Reed laughs when she says she still doesn’t have much feeling in her right pinky and ring finger. She knows that without the dedication and skills of those at VUMC, she likely wouldn’t have a right hand at all, and not much of an arm.

Today, Reed is steadily checking off a list of accomplishments using her right hand and arm: signing her name, brushing her teeth, and pulling items from the refrigerator. And she’s regaining skills she’ll need to return to her career as a medical assistant. It’s taken a dozen surgeries, weekly occupational therapy sessions, and a mountain of personal grit to reach this point.

At the time of the accident Reed lived in Michigan and was visiting friends in rural Franklin County, Tennessee. The group decided to take a late-night, off-road ride. Reed was a passenger when her UTV’s driver made a sharp turn to execute a donut. She instinctively reached for the vehicle’s roll cage just before it flipped.

“I remember waking up with blood gushing, and my arm trapped under the roll cage,” she said. “I panicked and started flailing around. Once the dust clouds settled, the guys realized what had happened and were able to lift the vehicle off my arm.”